Genentech is the latest company to enter a drug discovery partnership with Bicycle Therapeutics, adding a new alliance in cancer research for the clinical-stage biotech.
Under an agreement announced Tuesday, Roche subsidiary Genentech is paying Bicycle (NASDAQ: BCYC) $30 million up front. As programs progress, Bicycle could earn up to $1.7 billion in total milestone payments, plus royalties from sales if Genentech commercializes any of the therapies covered by the deal. None of the cancer drugs currently in Bicycle’s own pipeline are included in the partnership.
Bicycle, which is based in Cambridge, UK, and also has operations in Lexington, MA, is developing a new class of drugs comprised of peptides, which are chains of amino acids. The company uses small molecule scaffolds to form these synthetic peptides into two loops that resemble bicycle tires. The company calls these molecules “bicycles.” This structure, the company says, helps them bind to a target protein.
According to deal terms outlined in a securities filing, the new alliance calls for Bicycle to develop bicycle peptides addressing biological targets selected by Genentech. Bicycle will be responsible for discovery and preclinical research up to the selection of the immuno-oncology candidates. Genentech has the option to continue development of a candidate and obtain exclusive development and commercialization rights to that compound in exchange for “success-based milestone payments” totaling $10 million to $12 million per program, according to the filing.
The partnership covers up to four drug candidates addressing multiple immuno-oncology targets. Milestone payments tied to development, regulatory, and initial commercialization could total up to $200 million per program. Bicycle could earn additional payments if commercialized products achieve sales milestones.
Bicycle’s own lead program, BT1718, is a bicycle-toxin conjugate designed to target tumors that express Membrane Type 1 matrix metalloprotease, an enzyme often expressed in cancer cells. That program is being developed in collaboration with the Centre for Drug Development of Cancer Research UK, which is funding the research. Another program, BT5528, targets EphA2, a protein overexpressed in some cancers. Bicycle is funding the Phase 1/2 study testing that compound.
Bicycle has also parlayed its technology into collaborations with other entities. An alliance with AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) is developing treatments for respiratory, cardiovascular, and metabolic diseases while a deal with Sanofi (NYSE: SNY) is focused on sickle cell disease, hemophilia, and a yet-to-be-determined program. Bicycle is researching treatments for eye diseases under a pact with Oxurion; it is pursuing dementia treatments under an alliance with the Dementia Discovery Fund. Last year, through the end of September, collaborations generated $8.5 million in revenue, according to Bicycle’s third-quarter financial report.